All you need are 5 ingredients to make this Vegan Clear Pumpkin Pie.
Agar Agar powder is used instead of gelatin, and Pumpkin Spice extract makes this a fun and easy project for any home cook.
DISCLAIMER: The original ‘Clear Pumpkin Pie’ is in fact crystal clear due to the fact that gelatin is used as the gelling agent; it must be noted that molecular gastronomy chefs admit that Agar Agar will never set as clear as gelatin, but is the next suitable option for vegans and vegetarians alike. Because of the way that Agar Agar traps air, light may have a harder time passing through it, therefore serve the pie in thinner than usual slices to achieve the best effect.
If you’ve been online these past few weeks, you may have noticed the fever pitch that is the Clear Pumpkin Pie. Now I consider myself a traditionalist, but there is something so captivating and oddly satisfying about looking at a clear dessert that tastes like it doesn’t look and looks like it doesn’t taste.
Well Unicorn Frappuccino came and went, and I stood by idly as the whole internet Instagrammed their hearts out; I waited on the sidelines and dreamt of making my own vegan version but never did. I was not going to let that happen again! I was determined to make a Vegan Clear Pumpkin Pie.
So based on everything I read online, it seemed like there were just a few simple rules to this whole Clear Pumpkin Pie business:
- Taste (it has to taste like Pumpkin Pie)
- Texture (it has to feel like Pumpkin Pie)
- Clarity (it has to be clear)
cake pie right?
Well, not quite.
The famous restaurant that created the Clear Pumpkin Pie has divulged the fact that they distill their own pumpkin pie flavor using a very expensive Rotary Distiller, which costs thousands of dollars. Essentially, it’s a fancy piece of equipment that takes actual pumpkin pie and distills it down into a clear flavor concentrate. Sound familiar? Yes, their fancy machine makes flavor extract.
I hopped onto my computer, and went to Google Shopping, selected ‘Available Nearby’ and searched for “Pumpkin Pie Extract” – lo and behold, Walmart was selling this Watkins Imitation Pumpkin Spice Extract within miles of my house, and it was in stock and ready for pick up!
Therefore this recipe uses this particular extract (which thankfully is clear), so use extreme caution and experiment a few times if you decide to go with another brand – as long as it’s clear in color.
I already knew that Agar Agar powder was commonly used by vegan chefs to make jellies and desserts, so that part was a no-brainer. The problem was that I had never worked with Agar Agar before, and I wanted to get the consistency just right.
So I stopped by to my local Thai grocery store, and picked up a few packets of Telephone Brand Agar Agar Powder. It should be noted that this recipe uses Agar powder which dissolves instantly, versus the Agar flakes or strands which may need to soak or bloom in cold water. Also the measurement for the Agar in this recipe is for the powder only, and will need to be adjusted if you’re using the flakes or strands. You can find Agar powder in most Asian markets, but be sure to get the unflavored and uncolored versions.
When I got home, I first tried the recipe as directed on the package (1 gm Agar Agar to 120 gm water = 1 tsp. Agar Agar to 2/3 cup water). This was a big mistake. The result was a hard hockey puck like disc that was too dense to eat. I must have gotten the water measurement wrong, because I was using a kitchen food scale to measure both ingredients.
So I decide to just do a bunch of random batches, keeping my 1 tsp. of Agar powder constant, gradually increasing the water from 2/3 cup to 1 ½ cup, to 2 cups, 4 cups, and finally 5 cups of water for the 1 tsp. of Agar Agar before I finally got a consistency that was supple enough to feel like the custard of a traditional pumpkin pie.
White sugar should have worked wonders in this recipe, but in order to keep it vegan I used pure unbleached cane sugar. In the first batch, I added the sugar while the water boiled and it eventually over cooked and turned the gel a caramel color. In the second batch I added more water and put the sugar in at the end of the boil, but there was still an amber tint to the gel. I finally ditched the sugar all together and went with pure Stevia extract (which is clear to begin with).
At this point, the Agar is clear, the extract is clear, my sweetener is clear, and (obviously) my water is clear – great, we are on our way!? Not yet.
Up until this point, I was pouring my test batches into small bowls (because I didn’t want to ruin 5 different graham cracker pie crusts!). However, batch after batch, the boiled solution looked crystal clear in its liquid form but ended up turning cloudy as the gel set. This by far was the most frustrating part of the whole experiment.
I had just about given up, before I tried my 5th batch which had 5 cups of water and made the clearest and smoothest gel of the lot. I was happy with the results, but it still just wasn’t that ‘Crystal Pepsi’ clear that I was looking for.
Maybe due to exhaustion, I decided it was time to finally pour the 5th batch into the pie crust anyway and hope for the best. The next day, I felt like there had to be something online about the opacity of Agar and poured over pages and pages of recipes and started to see that all of the ‘Fruit Salad’ Agar desserts were never really 100% clear in their final form.
Then finally I found this handy article that confirmed “Agar is opaque in colour” and all bets were off. I was confident that my last batch had enough water to make the mouth feel reminiscent of actual pumpkin pie, and that the water to Agar ratio was enough to dilute the opacity, so it was time to cut into that darn pie and finally check it out.
After opening the lid to the pie tin, I was immediately met with the strong but familiar smell of pumpkin pie spices. Although it looked a little cloudy at first, to my surprise I was able to see through the pie itself and was looking right down into the crust!
After my first timid slice, I placed the pie on a plate and…
hot damn, IT WAS CLEAR!!!
Now, it was still a bit cloudy, and it wasn’t crystal clear like the photos online, but I could see my fork through it and light was passing through the pie slice with no problems, so it was clear enough for me.
Thankfully, Trader Joe’s just released their new non-dairy Coconut Whipped cream, and with a dollop of cream on top my Vegan Clear Pumpkin Pie was complete and ready for its debut.
So there you have it folks. You get a Vegan Clear Pumpkin Pie recipe, and I learned some valuable lessons along the way. It was a true holiday miracle, and I am so excited to share the recipe with you all.
Now vegans can finally have their [clear] pie, and eat it too 🙂
Give this recipe a try, and let me know how it goes. Tag your photos @TheGPlate so we can all see how your awesome pies turned out!
- Place the Agar Agar powder in the room temperature water and whisk it in (it will not dissolve completely until heat is applied)*
- Bring the water and agar to a boil, and let cook for 2-4 minutes until the Agar is completely dissolved; you can do this by spooning some of the mixture out and checking for particles - if it runs clear, then all of the Agar has dissolved
- Turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool for 1 minute; add the extract and the stevia, and whisk gently until they are dissolved
- Hold a large spoon over the graham cracker crust, backside up; pour the solution over the backside of the spoon as to not disturb the crust and repeat this step for the second crust
- Cover with the lid provided with the crust (do not let cling wrap touch the solution, as it will prevent it from gelling), and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours
- Serve the pie with whipped cream, and fire up Instagram for some LIT AF pie shots!**
**Only cut and plate the pie when you're ready to serve; doing so earlier will make the pie "weep" (it will start breaking down and releasing water which will make the crust fall apart)
***Keep this pie refrigerated until ready to serve